2010 Sejong Writing Competition

Winning Entries :: Essays :: Senior first place

Joyce Sim

When I was a child I lived in the city of Seoul, but spent the weekends in the country, at an old farmhouse in Chungju. A top agricultural area, Chungju boasted some of the largest rice paddies in Korea. Thanks to the dampness, frogs were everywhere and on rainy days their croaking drowned out any other sound.

When it rained, I would sit in the kitchen with my faced pressed up against the window watching drops slide down the glass and listening to the symphony of the boisterous frogs. My mother would chop vegetables and attend to her cooking pots on the stove. When I would start with my litany of childish questions, she mostly ignored me and continued with her work. But the day I asked her, “Mommy, why do the frogs croak so much on rainy days?” she actually stopped her work and stared at me intently. Then she left the kitchen and returned seconds later with a book in her hand.

I sat close to my mother as she read “The Green Frog,” a Korean folktale. As I looked at the pictures, I listened to the words my mother read. The gentle feel of her arm around me, the softness of her voice, the steady pattern of the raindrops and the incessant singing of the frogs comforted me, at least until, my mother turned to the last page. There I saw the green frog sitting in the rain, crying by the river bank because the rain had upset his mother’s grave, causing it to float away. I, too, began to cry. My mother hugged me and I knew that if I was never disobedient, disrespectful, or stubborn when my parents tried to teach or help me, I would never have to shed the painful tears of the Green Frog.

When I truly realized my mother’s love was few months after she had read “The Green Frog” to me. This one day, my family ordered fried chicken and while my mother was getting drinks, I opened the chicken bucket and said, “Daddy, I don’t know why, but mommy says she likes chicken breasts. But I hate that part ‘cause it’s so dry and tasteless” My father, who was sitting on the couch looked at me and said, “No, she doesn’t. Your mother is just saying because she wants you to eat the tasty part.” The second my father said that, I was stunned. Then, I went into bathroom and cried because every time we ordered fried chicken I always put chicken breasts on her plate because I thought she really liked that part. I could feel the true mothers’ love, the kind of love that tries to give their children the best of everything even out of the small things like food. I was six years old, but the love made me cry. Then, I went into my room and read “The Green Frog” for the second time. While reading the book again, I felt so many things I had not felt when my mother first read it to me. When I was done reading, the fact that I still have a chance to make up for the bad things I had done to my mother made me extremely happy. I kissed the book, thanked this folktale for making me promise myself to listen to my mother well by showing an example of a failure, the green frog who is now too late to be a good child.

I am seventeen now and I still like the story about the unruly green frog. I have thought about the tragic ending of the story and its impact on young children. Most of the other Korean folktales have happy endings which leave children feeling safe, comfortable, and warm inside. “The Green Frog,” however, is a sad story but it has a true moral. If all children listened to and obeyed their parents, all would be well. But in real life, children do question, do try to do things their own way, and often think they know better than their elders. The green frog learns that his mother’s teachings were right all along, but only after making far too many mistakes.

I rarely hear frogs here on Long Island, but when it rains I often think about my mother and the day she read the story of the green frog to me. She wanted me to remember how much she loved me and how all her expectations and demands were intended for my own good. Too many young people today understand so little about the complexities and dangers of the world and ignore the advice of their mothers. No one is too old to read the tale of the green frog and to learn the lesson now that he learned too late.